Nokia Oyj, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, told a European Union court that the U.K.’s interpretation of EU customs rules could make the region a “safe harbor” for counterfeiters.
The U.K. view that customs officials can’t seize fake products that are in transit through the 27-nation EU as long as there’s no proof that the products will actually end up in one of the region’s countries would make the EU a “logistical hub” for counterfeiters, a lawyer for Nokia said in a hearing at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg today.
“Is there really going to be import documentation with an address in South America and a bit of paper referring to the fact that the goods are really going to be delivered to Amsterdam?” said Justin Turner, Nokia’s lawyer. “ That sort of specific evidence is not realistic.”
The U.S., the EU, Japan and other nations on Nov. 15 finalized an accord that seeks to stop counterfeiting globally by harmonizing rules against the trade of fakes. More than 40 percent of counterfeit products seized in Europe in 2007 and 2008 were in transit, Nokia said today.
Today’s case stems from a dispute in the U.K. where customs authorities stopped a shipment of about 400 fake Nokia mobile-phone handsets and accessories in transit from Hong Kong to Colombia. After Nokia said the products were fakes, the U.K. officials said they couldn’t detain them because of a lack of evidence that they would be diverted back into the EU.
The EU court has to consider a wider disagreement between member nations on how to view the rules. Nokia’s view is backed by several EU governments, including Poland, Italy and Finland.
“It makes no sense to have a system of surveillance in place that’s based on suspicion without the need of evidence,” said Thomas de la Mare, a lawyer for the U.K. “The U.K. doesn’t pretend that this is a completely desirable situation.”
Following the U.K. approach will create “every prospect that the ports of the EU will turn into a logistical hub for the international trade in counterfeit goods -- a safe harbor for the counterfeiter,” Turner said.